Taylor Swift December 3, 2023; Green Bay, WI; Taylor Swift, center, arrives before the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL is a television beast. After another year of dominating network and cable television ratings, the Super Bowl now awaits us. Super Bowl 58 will feature the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. That, of course, means that the Super Bowl will be feeling a bit swiftier than usual. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Taylor Swift is All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce’s girlfriend, and she’s been following him all over the place.

Some sports fans have voiced their undying displeasure over this. Even though it’s been shown that the pop music sensation isn’t demonstrated that frequently at all during NFL games, it hasn’t stopped some from waxing unpoetically. But after a season of contentiousness among fans, some talking heads and pundits are using this opportunity to fan the flames.

Recently, CBS Sports analyst J.J. Watt, who attended a Taylor Swift concert last year, came to Taylor’s defense. Pat McAfee also wondered what everyone else’s deal was. Then there’s Shannon Sharpe, the ESPN First Take voice and podcaster who once starred as a Hall of Fame tight end.

On the Nightcap podcast, Sharpe and co-host Chad Ochocinco, a terrific former NFL player in his own right, discussed the way Swift and the NFL have “joined forces” this season. In Sharpe’s mind, the league is doing nothing he wouldn’t do. The NFL sees it as a marketing opportunity to expand its reach to young girls who may not be football fans at all. But if they see Taylor, then they’ll come.

And this is no small feat to Sharpe. He read Swift’s reported value, $331.5 million, including many media platforms. “Tell me the NFL player or the other person that’s gonna do that?!” Sharpe asked Ochocinco. The former Bengals star readied his response: Fellow music sensation Beyoncé.

Sharpe disagreed. “Not like this,” Sharpe said. “These 8-15-year-old eyeballs.”

More from Sharpe:

“Beyoncé ain’t moving the needle like this chick, Ocho. No. No, you tripping, Ocho. She’s the closest thing to moving the needle like Michael Jackson that we’ve seen. This is it.”

That claim called for Ochocinco to tell Sharpe to “reel it back in.”

“Beyoncé moves the needle just like Taylor,” Ochocinco replied. “Beyoncé has the same set of eyes. Young, old, middle-aged, and old, including I. Hypothetically speaking, Beyoncé would move the needle like Taylor doing.”

But Sharpe still had a ready defense. “Not like Taylor, man. Taylor Swift, I mean, she’s a different animal. And Beyoncé is phenomenal,” Sharpe said.

“The NFL can have anybody do halftime. I guarantee you Taylor Swift is first over Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Rihanna combined. That’s who they want,” Sharpe claimed. “I ain’t telling you what I heard; I tell you what I know. She turned them down. I ain’t telling you no hearsay; I’m telling you what I know. Stop playing, Ocho.”

Funnily enough, according to the poll, 62 percent of their chat said “No” to whether Beyoncé moves the needle like Taylor Swift. Both of them are huge music sensations, and as Sharpe noted during the podcast, it’s “either of them two.” He pointed to both performers putting their concert tours in theaters and compared the box office, which Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ movie exceeded Beyoncé’s by seven times the box office generated.

Ochocinco’s claim throughout the spar was that if Beyoncé were dating an NFL player like Swift, perhaps she’d be shown just as much. In theory, this isn’t an incorrect perspective. With the game being the centerpiece, everyone focuses on the game and its cast. Luminaries are often shown on TV (which has become such a thing in some sports, like the NBA, where they have their own social wings created), but there may be a contextual difference.

But as Sharpe said: “If Taylor Swift likes it, mommy, we like it too. And so, guess what? To keep the kids happy, parents buy tickets. Parents buy concert tickets to go see her.”

It was a worthwhile discussion, and some may come out ahead on either side. But with as much on the line, Sharpe’s viewpoint is likelier to be closer to the reality of the situation.


About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022